Constructed primarily in stone, wood, and bronze, Allen’s mid- and large-scale sculptures had never been publicly shown before their inclusion and wider discovery in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. A teenage runaway without a high school degree, the self-taught artist began an initial period of intense hand carving using salvaged materials while often homeless. Demonstrating an attunement with imbalance and precariousness, Allen’s sculptural forms are a marked departure from iconic stone carvers Constantin Brancusi and Isamu Noguchi, to whom his untrained sensitivity for shape and material have been compared. Recurring forms in Allen’s work take a cue from quantum particles and body organs and make indirect associations to psychological pain and wonder.Read More
Many of Allen’s new sculptures, made of marble, travertine, and Claro walnut, weigh several tons. Despite their solidity, the works appear to undulate and vibrate, as if they are about to be sucked in or pushed out by some external force to the point of dissipation. In a series of bronze sculptures, the edges of an unknown trajectory are revealed, as tensive and fluid as the expanding universe. Presented in groupings and as individual forms, Allen’s sculptures arrive out of inherent chaos and chance provided by nature, as well as the precision of technological operation and mastery, all the while suggesting a range of anthropomorphic and visceral associations.
The obstinate sincerity of Allen’s work belies a process as anti-scriptural as the work itself. After repeated injury from obsessive over-carving left Allen unable to use his hands for extended periods, the artist built a large-scale robotic system out of spare assembly-line parts and developed its proprietary software as a mechanized extension of hand carving. The feat of engineering with emerging technology, rather than relying on third-party fabricators, allows Allen to continue his devotion to immediacy and reckless intuition in the creation of labor-intensive sculptures. Instead of being Untitled, all works in the exhibition are referred to as Not Yet Titled. In the smallest curve in Allen’s works, and in their weighted sensuality and bare longing, is an ongoing consideration of the moment before loss and/or becoming.